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Full text of "ModernGermanLiterature18801950"

THE  REGIONAL  NOVEL                          353

marries that she has for a period taken the place of an invalid wife.
The construction is again poor: the main theme (the regeneration
of society by a modernized and secular Christianity) fits awkwardly
into a multiplicity of loosely connected incidents extraneous to
the plot of the story. As literature this best-seller can only be
placed low: it is ruined by its rank preaching. The demand for
sexual experience as healthful belongs of course to the hygienic
doctrine of the period; but the way in which it is here defended
tempts one to call Hilligenlei a dirty book. There is again a lack of
originality: apart from the coincidence of an inserted Life of Christ
here and in Rosegger's INBJ, which is dated 1905 - this may of
course be accidental in either case - the superimposing of the
religious element on the delineation of the Hilligenlei people as pre-
tentious provincial fools, ludicrously credulous and easily swin-
dled, seems grafted from Gottfried Keller's Seldwyla tales. Peter
Moors Fabrt nach Sudwest (1907) has interest as a description of the
campaign against the Herreros. The technique is again specifically
that of Dickens: secondary characters are actually given more
prominence than the tortured mystic who is the hero of the tale,
and Dickens's device of characterization by the reiteration of idio-
syncrasies is naively practised. The hero of Klaus Hinrich Baas
(1909) is a modern Dick Whittington. His surname 'Baas' (our
English 'boss') has come to him, with his hereditary qualities (for
this is a novel of eugenics), as a mark of his domineering nature.
It is from a village in Dithmarschen, where his father is a faim-
labourer, that he sets out to make his fortune; and the first scenes
paint the life of peasants and the glamour of Hamburg, that flaming
octopus on the horizon. Then Hamburg itself, with Klaus Baas
climbing the commercial ladder; the Dutch Indies, a vivid episode;
routine in a sleepy market town of Dithmarschen again, at the
side of a wife constitutionally unfit to be a wife; separation from
her, Hamburg again, and a masterful struggle for victories in
trade. Klaus Baas is an idealized democrat; in patrician society he
is like a fish out of water; he is a merchant pure and simple. It is
only when his health begins to fail that he returns to the books
he dreamt of in his boyhood; but for twenty years he has been
a monster of concentration. He could not have been that if he had
not been 'full-blooded* - only the blue-blooded patricians waste
their time over art, at Florence, and such things; but his full blood
had other needs than those of a merchant's conquests; and these